“The State of Arkansas (The Arkansas Traveler II)”


A traveler arrives in Arkansas and finds that it fully meets his (lack of) expectations. He "never knowed what misery was till I come to Arkansas." His boss had promised that the state would make him a different man, and he is: He is now badly starved


This should not be confused with the fiddle tune "Arkansas Traveler," or with the minstrel-show sketch from which it derives. -PJS

Paul Stamler reports that this is "Credited to Sanford Barnes of Buffalo, [Missouri]." Many other authors, however, have been listed, e.g. Belden knows of an attribution to T. W. Shelton and another to Pat Kelly. Carmer credits Ransom C. Cook. Eckstorm traces it back to "Canada I O." I incline to think all the claims false -- though I wouldn't be surprised if the author really was from Missouri.... - RBW

Cross references


  • Almanac Singers, "State of Arkansas" (General 5018A, 1941; on Almanac01, Almanac03, AlmanacCD1)
  • Kelly Harrell, "My Name is John Johanna" (Victor 21520A, 1927; on KHarrell02, AAFM1, HardTimes1)
  • Pete Seeger, "State of Arkansas" (on PeteSeeger19, AmHist2)
  • Pete Seeger & Sonny Terry, "Arkansas Traveller" (on SeegerTerry)


  1. Laws H1, "The Arkansas Traveler"
  2. Belden, pp. 424-426, "Bill Stafford" (2 texts)
  3. Randolph 347, "The State of Arkansas" (4 texts plus 2 excerpts, 3 tunes)
  4. Randolph/Cohen, pp. 288-290, "The State of Arkansas" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 347A)
  5. Cohen-LSRail, pp. 560-566, "Way Out in Idaho" (2 texts, 1 tune; the main text and tune are "Way Out in Idaho (I)", but a secondary text is a version of this piece)
  6. BrownIII 331, "Arkansas Traveller (II)" (2 texts)
  7. Hudson 80, p. 208, "Tocowa" (1 short text with "Tocowa," not Arkansas, the site of the singer's bad experience)
  8. Brewster 52, "The Arkansaw Traveler" (2 texts)
  9. Dean, pp. 8-9, "The Arkansas Navvy" (1 text)
  10. Thomas-Makin', pp. 171-172, (no title) (1 text)
  11. Friedman, p. 434, "The Arkansaw Traveler" (1 text)
  12. Lomax-FSUSA 71, "The State of Arkansas" (1 text, 1 tune)
  13. Lomax-FSNA 167, "The State of Arkansas" (1 text, 1 tune)
  14. JHCox 53, "An Arkansaw Traveller" (3 texts)
  15. SharpAp 170, "Old Arkansas" (1 text, 1 tune)
  16. Asch/Dunson/Raim, p. 44, "My Name Is John Johanna" (1 text, 1 tune)
  17. SHenry H0, p. 53, "The State of Arkansaw" (1 text, 1 tune)
  18. Darling-NAS, pp. 225-226, "Old Arkansas" (1 text)
  19. Silber-FSWB, p. 46, "The State of Arkansas" (1 text)
  21. ADDITIONAL: Fred W. Allsopp, Folklore of Romantic Arkansas, Volume II (1931), pp. 46-53, texts of both "The Arkansas Traveler" and "The State of Arkansas," with folktale variants, a reproduction of a painting of the fiddler and traveler, and background information
  22. Roud #257
  23. BI, LH01


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1906 (Belden)
Found in: US(Ap,MW,SE,So) Ireland